James Milner scored from the spot for the second game running to earn Liverpool a hard-fought 1-0 win over Swansea City in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.
Milner was on target with a penalty in Thursday’s Europa League victory over Bordeaux, and he proved Liverpool’s matchwinner against Garry Monk’s side after the hosts had looked set for a frustrating stalemate.
Liverpool were on top for large spells prior to Milner’s goal shortly after the hour but lacked a cutting edge without playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who was not risked following a hamstring problem picked up in the 4-1 win over Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s team were a long way off reproducing their stunning display at the Etihad Stadium but Milner’s penalty, following a questionable decision for a Neil Taylor handball, ensured the German enjoyed a first Premier League win at Anfield.
Captain Jordan Henderson and striker Daniel Sturridge made their long-awaited returns from injury from the bench to feature under Klopp for the first time – adding gloss to a third victory in a row in all competitions that lifts Liverpool to sixth in the table.
Swansea will consider themselves unfortunate, but a run of just one win in 10 league outings means the pressure continues to build on Monk.
Following back-to-back wins over City and Bordeaux, Liverpool began confidently and almost went ahead five minutes in via Kyle Bartley.
Jordon Ibe burst forward and Bartley’s challenge diverted the ball onto Lukasz Fabianski’s right-hand post as Swansea were given an early let-off.
Ibe – one of two Liverpool changes due to Coutinho’s injury and Lucas Leiva’s suspension – was heavily involved in the opening stages as Liverpool dominated possession.
Missing suspended former Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey, Swansea gradually grew into the game around the half-hour mark but, like their hosts, failed to muster a shot on target before the interval.
Having survived early Liverpool pressure, Swansea were on top after the break but Ibe had the first effort of the second period when he forced Fabianski into a save down to his right.
Klopp’s men continued to lack a decisive pass in the final third but, when Taylor was harshly adjudged to have handled Ibe’s delivery, Milner produced an impressive penalty to beat Fabianski and break the deadlock.
Henderson was introduced soon after for his first appearance since mid-August and assumed the captain’s armband from Milner before Sturridge featured for the first time in almost two months.
The striker missed the midweek Europa League success after sustaining a knock in training but almost got himself on the end of Milner’s wayward shot at the far post shortly after his introduction.
Swansea substitutes Jefferson Montero and Befetimbi Gomis saw late shots blocked, as Liverpool’s momentum continued to grow ahead of Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final at Southampton.
Key Opta stats:
– Liverpool have both taken (135) and scored (103) more penalties than any other side in Premier League history.
– Liverpool have won 12 and lost none of their 15 league meetings with Swansea at Anfield.
– Swansea have won just six points from their last 10 Premier League games (W1 D3 L6).
– James Milner has scored in successive Premier League appearances against Swansea.
– Swansea did not manage a shot on target in this match – the second time in their last three Premier League games that they have failed to do so (also zero v Norwich City).